Green in the Workplace

Not unlike other shopping center developers, Forest City Enterprises is as much about “place-making” as erecting buildings. But, unlike many of its industry counterparts, Forest City has taken the idea of place-making and made it personal.

“When we interview potential associates, we talk a lot about place-making,” said Andy Passen, executive VP of human resources [HR] for the Cleveland-based company. “From an HR standpoint, we’ve taken on that same challenge—as becoming place-makers for our associates. Values are a huge part of that, so in our recruiting efforts we talk about our values here, of which sustainability and living responsibly in the environment are a huge part.”

Orienting and training associates about the environment, a topic that has been threaded into Forest City’s fabric for many years, required progressive thinking and in-depth communication. A task force devoted to sustainability, as well as several key green programs and publications, has ignited companywide support and jump-started associate-level interest.

WorkGreen: Slated for a November 2007 launch and designed to coincide with America Recycles Day on Nov. 15, WorkGreen is directed at the 3,270 associates employed by the organization. It is modeled after the company’s GreenHouse program, which promotes sustainability to the residents of the company’s multi-family residential developments. (Tips provided on the GreenHouse Web site, www.fcgreenhouse.net, include switching to compact fluorescent bulbs and using environmentally friendly cleaning supplies.)

The new, employee-oriented Work-Green initiative will be comprised of seven elements: energy efficiency, water efficiency, environmentally friendly purchasing, transportation, health and wellness, community involvement, and recycling and waste management.

“We hope to shine the light on the green practices that we, as an organization, have done and are doing,” explained Jon Ratner, director of sustainable initiatives.

Elevator banks in the company’s headquarters tower in Cleveland are being replaced with energy-efficient models, thousands of windows are being replaced with energy-efficient windows, a green cleaning program has been implemented, and a companywide recycling program is under way.

The WorkGreen program will ensure that Forest City employees understand why the changes are being made, and “inspire them to participate in sustainability at work and at home,” Ratner said.

Publications: Also key to Forest City’s training of associates in green matters are two internal publications: “FC Times” and “Focus.” A weekly e-mailed newsletter, FC Times features a major article about sustainability once a month. Focus, a quarterly magazine, also covers green issues on a regular basis, ensuring that Forest City associates at all levels, and its stakeholders, are in tune with the company’s mission to make a difference in the environment.

Green Task Force: Of all the company’s sustainable programs, both Ratner and Passen agree that the one with the most impact has been the creation of an intra-company council—which now numbers 25 members—devoted to devising and supporting green initiatives.

“We organized our first intra-company council about three years ago,” said Ratner, who added that the mission was twofold: to create connections throughout the organization among all levels of associates and, two, to leverage the power-of-crowd mentality to focus a group on one specific issue. The council around sustainability serves to “spread green awareness through the corporate offices, on the ground and in the field.”

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